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Orange is a New Red

Have you ever wondered what orange wine is?      

In short,  it’s a white wine made like red. It’s made from white grapes only. The grape juice is left in contact with the skins and seeds in a vessel (often stainless steel, cement or ceramic) from several days to sometimes over a year to gain texture and a deeper color.

What does Orange Wine taste like?

There are many factors that influence the taste and style of orange wine. To me the major factors are the time the grape juice spends in contact with the skins, the maceration vessel (where fermentation and maceration occurs), and whether the wine was exposed into oak or not (aged in oak barrels).

Orange wine with a short skin contact, fermentation in neutral vessel (stainless steel, for instance) and no oak exposure is going to be quite light in color, but have more concentrated flavor and more structured mouthfeel than regular white wine.

Oxidation and a long skin contact create a deep orange-hued wine with a very particular taste. It’s bold and rich, with aromas of tropical fruit, hazelnut, brazil nut, wood, sourdough, juniper, and honey, etc. It’s big on the palate and has tannins similar to red wine.

Food Pairing with Orange Wine

In terms of pairing, orange wine is very versatile and can be paired with a wide variety of foods from beef to fish. You can pair lighter version of it in the same way you’d pair regular white wine. However, it typically going to have more flavor, so don’t hesitate to use more spices, herbs and seasoning in your cooking. Wine made in slightly oxidative style or with extended skin contact would perfectly compliment any bolder foods including curry dishes, spicy or fermented foods, think Indian cuisine, Moroccan, Korean, Japanese. etc.

History of Orange Winemaking

Even though the term ‘orange wine’ is around about the last 20 years, the process of making orange wine is very old, dating back thousands of years to the country of Georgia where wines were fermented in large subterranean vessels called Quevri or clay amphoras. Italy was one of the first countries to adopt this winemaking practice. Among other countries are Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Germany, France, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and California.

How to serve orange wine?

Serve lighter wines slightly chilled, especially on hot summer days. However, for mature examples, such as those made by Gravner or Radicon, I’d enjoy them a little warmer, close to room temperature to bring out the complexity and aromatics.

Radikon Oslavje, Orange Wine from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy
Radikon Oslavje, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy
Ageno La Stoppa, Orange Wine from Emilia Romagna, Italy
Ageno La Stoppa, Emilia Romagna, Italy
Klinec Rebula, Orange Wine from Slovenia
Klinec Rebula, Slovenia

Movia Lunar, Orange Wine from Slovenia

Movia Lunar, Slovenia

Orange Wine Recommendations:

1. Gravner, Anfora Ribolla (Friuli-Venezia Giulia). Josko Gravner was the first winemaker to produce Orange wine in Italy

2. Frank Cornelissen «Munjebel» (Sicily)

3. Cos «Pithos Bianco» (Sicily)

4. Radikon (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) Stanko Radikon, considered one of the giants of natural and orange wine scene

5. Foradori, Fontanasante Nosiola (Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy)

6. Ageno, La Stoppa (Emilia Romagna, Italy)

7. Movia «Lunar» (Slovenia)

8. Klinec, Rebula (Slovenia)

9. Pheasant’s Tears, Rkatsiteli Amber wine (Georgia)

10. Orgo, Rkatsiteli (Kakheti, Georgia)

Georgia is famous for their qvevri-aged wines. The clay vessels are closed with beeswax and completely buried under the ground where the temperature is even throughout the year. Rkatsiteli is the most common grape for qvevri wines known to produce wine with a deep red-orange hue.

11. Channing Daughters ‘Meditazione’, “Ramato” (New York)

12. Shinn Estate Vineyards ‘Veil’ (New York)

13. Ambyth, OW Grenache Blanc (Paso Robles, California)

14. Strohmeyer (Austria)

I’ve recently been to an orange wine tasting at the Bottle Rocket wine store (NYC), organized by my friend Amanda (aka @therealhousewine) and tasted a few more great examples from Greece (Georgas family, Savatiano Black Label,$27), Italy (Castello di Stefanago “Corti-Giani,” $27) and Austria (Weingut Pittnauer “Mash Pitt” $35). Check this store out and stock up for upcoming fall season.

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